Milwaukee, WI - Looking at Milwaukee and Wisconsin’s shameful statistics you’d think you were looking at a southern state during Jim Crow. Sixty years after the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision ending government sanctioned school segregation and communities like Milwaukee have remained “separate and unequal”. It will take a coordinated and collective effort to bring an end to this New Jim Crow era.
Luckily that’s beginning to happen in Milwaukee. Schools and Communities United is a coalition of community, educator, civic, student, labor, and religious organizations dedicated to defending and improving public schools. The group’s founding principles state:
Education is a civil right and public responsibility. A strong public education system is the foundation of our democracy, of equal opportunity, and of an economy that works for all.
On Saturday, the coalition released a report ”Fulfill the Promise: The Schools and Communities Our Children Deserve” containing their vision for Milwaukee Public Schools, and highlighted the statistics above underscoring inequalities in the region. The coalition also organized a march from King Park to Milwaukee High School of the Arts, where hundreds not only came out to march and make the statement that “separate and unequal” cannot continue, but they also took the necessary steps needed to sustain that fight and win.
This day of action was different however, because the march was not the end. When the group reached the Milwaukee High School of the Arts they went inside to continue to talk about the issue of segregation in our communities. Speakers from different groups on the ground organizing to make a difference spoke on the work they are doing to improve conditions in the city and state.
The event’s keynote speaker was adjunct professor, author, syndicated columnist, and television political commentator Donna Brazile. She spoke to the gathered group about the importance of continuing the fight against segregation in our communities:
“We are the ones … why? Because there’s nobody better. The time is now … why? Because tomorrow is too late.”
Before you can look to the future you must look to the past and the program also included a tribute to past Civil Rights leaders in the city of Milwaukee. Vel Phillips and Margaret Rozga, to name a few, were honored formally during the morning’s events and informally throughout by others speaking. Those currently struggling to fight inequality in Milwaukee do not have to look far for inspiration from the past.
Following the conclusion of the official program attendees went into the cafeteria of the high school to begin the most important part of the day. A working lunch was held to begin a community brainstorm on how to further fight segregation in communities today. Groups discussed what was working and what needed improving in the Milwaukee Public Schools. They then took notes on what the coalition needs to do next to help remedy the current shameful dynamic that exists. The ideas were finally shared out, discussed, and will be analyzed further and utilized in taking the next steps in fighting the New Jim Crow in Wisconsin and hopefully the nation.
More photos from the day can be found here.